mardi, novembre 21, 2006

Les cookies et l'analyse web

Pour mon cour au UBC, je devais émettre mon opinion sur les cookies.

Voici mon texte :

P.S. : Un gros merci à Maryse Tardif pour avoir corriger mon texte.

My thoughts on cookie and WA



Being on both sides of the fence gives us a unique perspective on the subject.

Me, as a customer

I think there is a limit to how much of my privacy I'm willing to let leak out.

If a cookie is set for the purpose of making the site easier to use, I see no problem. If I have a better experience, and if that better experience translates into more sales for the Web site, we both win. It is very frustrating to not be able to find what we are looking for on a Web site.

But if that easier-to-use optimization lowers the security of my private data (credit card information) on the Web site (by using a cookie to save my login password, for instance), I don't want that. At least, I want the option of opting-out of this 'increased value' feature.

When it comes to cookies used for marketing purposes (for example, related ads), I'm not so sure. Last month, I had an interesting experience with Amazon. I never read the e-mail they sent me about a 'great promotion', but last month, my eye caught a glimpse of a book they were offering me 'at great price'. I had read this book in school a very long time ago, and then forgot both the title and the author's name. I wished sometimes I hadn't because I remembered how I really devoured that book back then. Guess what, Amazon was offering me this very book based on my previous purchase (yeah, so I'm conservative, my tastes don't change much. What about it :-)

Even though part of me finds targeted ads a plague in this 'consumer society' of ours, I'm really glad I had the opportunity of finding this book after 10 years. So I will reserve judgement.

Where I disagree is when the Web site shares this information with other partners. This kind of behavior shouldn't be buried deep down in a 'term of use policy'. This kind of behavior should be CLEARLY indicated when you register on a Web site. Also, every time they share our personal/behavior data with someone else, they should have to notify us.

I will not go as far as the Center for Digital Democracy1 wants to go, by making this behavior illegal, but I wish corporations were more transparent about it.


Me, as a Web analytics expert 'wannabe'

For a Webmaster to be able to enrich the experience of the Web user, he/she needs data. This data can be anonymous data, collected using a tag combined with a cookie. The use of cookies, we all know, makes the collection of data more accurate. Most of the metrics we look at are based on visits and visitors. To be able to get a clear picture, I believe we need to go beyond log file analysis.

I think cookies are a great marketing tool. Being able to present our users targeted ads to their individual tastes can only help raise the conversion rate, and I see no difference between this and TV ads that target young children during Saturday morning cartoons. If one behavior is okay and tolerated, the other one should be too. I don't think the 'gray zone'2 decribed by Paul Strupp is an issue here.

I firmly believe we can get the job done while following David Holtzman's 7 principles of privacy3. These principles make sense to me as a Web analyst and as a consumer.

Conclusion

To be able to track visitors on our Web site to see where consumers have trouble is awesome. But we shouldn't forget we are consumers too. We should not do as Web analytics experts what we don't appreciate as consumers.



1. Consumer Groups Call for FTC Investigation of Online Advertising and Consumer Tracking and Targeting Practices (2006), by The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG), from http://www.democraticmedia.org/issues/privacy/FTCprivacypr.html
2. Gray Privacy (2006), by Paul Strupp, from http://blogs.sun.com/pstrupp/entry/gray_privacy
3. The Seven Principles of Privacy (2006), by David H. Holzman, from http://www.changethis.com/28.02.PrinciplesPrivacy

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Les opinions qui sont ici émises sont celles de Sébastien Brodeur et non pas de Desjardins.